Everyone faces his/her own challenges. And while many of us have no idea what it is like to have our every move monitored by the media paparazzi, British author Holly Smale takes readers down that path. With the second book in The Valentines series, Far From Perfect, readers no longer just imagine what living under public scrutiny is like, we follow sixteen-year-old Faith Valentine as she fights for her own identity.
Born into an extraordinary life of opportunities and fortune, Faith loves running and ballet but hates acting and publicity. The headlines write a version of her that isn’t real, and the gap between reality and fiction gets too big for her to cross. Even though Faith tells the press that acting is a path she has been eager to read since she was a child, she isn’t happy being “so many people, [living] so many lives, [telling] so many stories” (96). She resists the assessments of strangers who reduce her to “little pieces of people who aren’t even [her]. A composite of recycled beauty handed down by others and instructed to look after carefully” (33-34). Rather than the managed and scripted life she is expected to live, she craves privacy and an identity that she determines for herself.
At an audition, Faith meets Scarlett Bell. Driving, singing, eating, talking, and laughing, Scarlett teaches Faith how to live a little and to dictate her boundaries. As Faith sheds her chrysalis, she reminds readers that all humans need leisure time, space, privacy, and the power to say no. Being judged, criticized, questioned, exposed, graded, mocked, violated, put on a pedestal, or pressured to be perfect will damage any person.
Along the way, Smale’s readers also get valuable glimpses into family dysfunction and the critical importance of mental health. Many of us will relate to the feeling of “slowly recalibrating: finding our places, remembering our lines, resuming our positions” (66) or of trying to outrun ourselves in an effort to escape the parts of our lives that we resist or can’t confront.
- Posted by Donna